Midwifery books and equipment – what to buy?

You don’t need to buy lots of stuff before you start the course, I know it’s fun to prepare a bit, you need a minimum of stationery, don’t buy midwifery books unless you have lots of spare cash to throw around. All these books are in the library where you can take them out for free and renew them online or over the phone up to five times, before returning them and taking them out again. You can get a lot of midwifery books second-hand on Ebay, if you really want to buy them, it doesn’t matter if it’s not the latest edition, for something like Mayes or Myles, it’s really background reading.

The only possible exception to this is Anatomy and Physiology, it’s quite good to own at least one of these, maybe two. If you learn by highlighting and underlining, the library won’t like you doing it in their books!! My personal preference is for Ross and Wilson, which is an A&P book aimed at nurses, it has full colour diagrams, which really helps, (I’m a visual learner!) and it’s in just the right amount of detail for a degree. However, it doesn’t give you the detail you need on reproductive systems, menstrual cycle, pregnancy, labour and birth, for all of that, you need just one book, Stables and Rankin. (Links for the books are below). The only other book which is really essential (to read, not to own), is Johnson and Taylor, and it will be your bible for placement, as it contains all the details of all the practical skills you will be learning there, including abdominal palpation, testing urine, taking blood, vaginal exams, and countless others.

There will be lots of reading lists given to you by your lecturers, but they don’t expect you to read everything, never mind buy it all! As for midwifery equipment, the only thing I would try to get for free in your first week from the Royal College of Midwives is a Pinard. Don’t buy anything, you just won’t need it, when you are in hospital the equipment is all there, when you are on community, your midwife has a bag stuffed full of everything you will need.

I know it’s tempting to splurge, but save your hard-earned cash, you are probably going to need it down the line, it’s tough being a student!





Interviews – Personal Philosophy of Midwifery (not as serious as it sounds!)

This sounds really cheesy, and I have seen some writing in this vein that made me cringe, there was this one poem – but I’m going off-topic…

The longer I spend around midwives, and caring for women, the more key experiences I have where I either say to myself ‘I will never treat a woman like that.’ Or  ‘If I can ever be half as good a midwife I will be happy. What she just did was amazing.’

You probably know more about what sort of midwife you want to be than you realise. When you watch midwife TV, e.g. One Born Every Minute USA, are you thinking ‘wow, look at all those beautiful wooden cabinets, that birth centre looks like a hotel, I’d love to work there. They have all the technology, and it’s so modern.’

Or are you thinking ‘Why are they giving her an epidural when she’s just walked in the door? She can’t be more than 2cm dilated.’ Have you read any of Ina May Gaskin’s books? Did you love ‘Call the Midwife?’ or did you prefer ‘One Born’? Do you shout at the TV every time someone in a soap gives birth in less than a minute lying on their back?

Every midwife is different, and it helps going into an interview knowing where you stand on some of the current headline issues in midwifery, like:

  • current changes to the NHS – good thing or bad thing?
  • Interventions in labour, necessary or unnecessary?
  • midwifery-led care, dangerous and inadvisable or a cheap way for low-risk women to give birth?

I have to say, there are no ‘wrong’ answers here, it’s all about your values, and how you are going to apply them once you are qualified. The very process of becoming qualified will probably change your views on some issues, as you learn more about the science, but your core values rarely change. I would encourage you to expose yourself to as many different views of midwifery as possible, and think about your emotional response to each of them. You already have a personal philosophy of midwifery, you just may not know what it is yet!

You will learn a lot about yourself in the process, and that’s half the battle, self-awareness being one of the key goals of the midwifery degree. You have to be able to understand your own values and your own reactions to people, in order to provide equal care to all the women you meet. Demonstrating a degree of self-awareness on your personal statement and in your interview will make the right impression.

Inspiring Mentors

Your mentor is your gateway to knowledge.

Ask them questions, generally at the beginning they know that you don’t know anything and are happy to explain stuff. Generally it’s not a good idea to ask questions about a woman’s care in front of her.  If you’re in community, in the car is a good time to discuss things you want to know more about. But also remember, you are supposed to look things up and research issues that arise, so don’t be lazy and expect your mentor to answer every tiny thing that pops into your mind, write a list and look in your midwifery textbook, or your skills handbook. Then if this raises further questions in your mind, that’s a good time to raise it with your mentor, as in “I was reading about x last night, and I wondered how that fits in with y,” or “After we saw that lady who had x the other day, I looked it up, and it said she might have problems with y, is that something that’s likely to happen?”

Mentors love it when you look stuff up, and if you ask lots of questions without doing your own research, her default response will become “that’s a really good question, why don’t you go home tonight and look that up, and when you come in tomorrow you can tell me what you found out.”

You’ll probably get the chance to work with other midwives besides your mentor. Observe closely, as this is a great opportunity to see how their practice is different, as you will need to decide yourself how you want to practice after you qualify. You will probably find you take bits and pieces from every mentor you work with, in terms of how they talk to the women, how they explain particular interventions, how they obtain consent, how they go about a vaginal exam, how they record their actions in the notes.

You will bring your own personality to your practice, beyond that, you choose how to work with women.  You will never forget the mentors who inspire you, you will take them with you as you travel on your journey to become a midwife.

A fab post about baby-friendly C-sections and post-section breastfeeding.

Mother Revolution

So, this girlfriend of mine has always wanted a super crunchy, all natural, birth center birth.  With her first pregnancy, she did her research, interviewed the local midwives, and made a birth plan.  And then about half way through the pregnancy, the worst thing happened.  Her water broke and she lost her baby girl.

Second pregnancy, she was all revved up to try again.  She embraced hope, fell in love with her growing belly and the baby inside it, and made up her birth plan for her all natural, birth center birth.  But wait!  This baby was breech, and despite her best efforts (including the attempt of a very good OB to perform an external version–turn the baby from the outside so he could be born head first), he stayed that way.  So my friend ended up having a cesarean birth.  A very good cesarean, with her rainbow baby kept close by…

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Beware of Facebook!

Now you want to be a midwife, you need to think about how you are presenting yourself on Facebook and other social networking sites – Twitter, Tumblr etc.  When you start your course, your tutor will have a chat with the cohort (class) about what’s not acceptable for a midwife to do in public, e.g. drunken nakedness, or photos of same on Facebook.

Social networking is a big area of concern for Health Faculties right now, they are losing several students a year who make inadvisable comments on Facebook or Twitter. Basically, you can’t ever mention anything to do with work on a social network, as it’s considered to be the same thing as announcing it in public, even if your page is only visible to your family and close friends. The reason for that is to do with the fact that anybody can comment on your status and then it becomes  visible to anybody else. Once you have posted something on Facebook, it is considered to be in the public domain, and the same as shouting it in the middle of a crowded street, or emailing it to everybody in the world.

Think about your privacy settings on all your social networks, make sure they are set to the most restrictive settings, Friends Only for everything, before you apply to university. One reason for that is that employers have started to Google applicants, there is nothing to stop Universities from doing the same thing. Everything you’ve ever posted, going back several years, may still be accessible online to people searching your name. From now on, be very careful what you post, and think about your future career!

Google yourself, and see what comes up. It might surprise you! Lots of teachers and academics never have a Facebook profile, because of the difficulties of maintaining the proper professional distance from their pupils in this arena. The same problems apply to midwives, if your clients ever ask to ‘friend’ you, you can’t accept. There is a boundary between providing a service to somebody and becoming friends, which it is not professional to cross.

The NMC Code and Rules and Standards are useful when thinking about these issues, and they have also recently produced advice on social networking for nurses and midwives, if you’re concerned, have a read of this:


How amazing is my job…

How many jobs are there where you get up in the morning and you’re excited to go to work?

Some days, when I’m on a low-risk placement, with a lovely mentor, I am just thrilled to be going to work, I can’t wait to get there. There is something amazing about this job, even in community, when it’s not all about births, it’s the more mundane everyday midwifery work, feeling squirmy babies in  tummies, chatting about women’s small aches and pains, reassuring them that everything is normal, sharing their fears and excitement about the upcoming birth, talking about names for the baby, having a laugh with the Dads.

English: A sleeping male baby with his arm ext...

Image via Wikipedia

I feel privileged to be doing this job, it’s such an intimate relationship we form with our women, a bond born out of a common fascination with birth that we share with them. I love seeing the same women week in, week out, getting to know their older kids, letting them play with the Pinard, listening in as a family to the baby’s heartbeat.

Sometimes we lose sight of how lucky we are to be in these women’s lives at this emotional time, it can become mundane, that’s why I enjoy talking to you guys, who are at the beginning of this amazing journey, you haven’t lost any of that awe at the incredibleness of birth! Or one of my friends at Uni reminds me of why we’re doing this, becoming the best midwives we can be, providing the care that women deserve, being caring and compassionate, and not intervening just for the sake of it, allowing women to find their own path on this journey, joining with them rather than leading them.

Being with woman, says it all.

Midwifery Degree Interviews – Questions

The first comment on my blog today was from Vicky Rogers, Hi Vicky!

She got me thinking about interviews, it’s such a source of stress, I will never forget mine, I was on total autopilot, but I had prepared, and was ready for them! I started badly, due to nerves, but once I got into my stride everything went ok. They know you’re going to be nervous, and they will explain some stuff to you first to give you time to compose yourself and calm down.

I don’t think there’s a huge amount of variety in the kinds of questions interviewers ask, you can expect things like

Why are you interested in being a midwife?
What is the role of a midwife?

What direct experience do you have of working with or supporting women (or adults), in a maternity (or other) setting?

What strengths do you have which will help you in your role as a midwife?

What weaknesses do you have which you think you will need to overcome/work on?

What do you think will be the biggest challenge in taking on the midwifery course?

What kind of family support/childcare do you have?

What is the last thing you read about midwifery? What is the NMC and what do they do?

What do you think will be the best thing about being a midwife?
And the worst thing?

What skills do you have from previous jobs/school/work experience that you can bring with you?

Why do you think you would be a good midwife?

I hope that’s helpful, I have some more stuff to say in another post, but it’s not rocket science, have an idea in advance of the stuff you want to get across in the interview, make a list of your key skills, and key experiences, and be ready to talk about those whenever they give you an opening.

Do some research on the NMC Code and Rules, start here:



Once you’re on the course, you will live and die by these two documents, they are the foundation stone for everything we do as midwives.

English: Source - Nursing and Midwifery Counci...

Image via Wikipedia

Google a piece of news about midwifery, and have a think about why it’s important.

The interview is your opportunity to shine, know what you want to say, and take any chance to say it. You need to get across your passion for midwifery.Remember, they’ve selected your application out of hundreds, because they think you may have the stuff they are looking for, that’s already a huge step.

When you’re waiting to go in, remember to BREATHE! In and out, long slow breaths, if you’ve ever done any meditation or yoga, now is the time to practice those skills. You need that oxygen to keep your brain functioning! (lol)

Good luck to Vicky, I hope it all goes really well! 🙂

Why would you want to be a Midwife?

So, why would you want to become a midwife?

The future of the NHS as I write is looking very uncertain and possibly fragmented. There will be an increase in the involvement of private health care providers, nobody knows what it’s going to look like, but there are already changes happening. On the Wirral, there is a new company called One-to-One Midwifery, who are doing a fantastic job of providing home births and maternity services to the women living there. They have been subcontracted by the NHS to do this work, and are doing it very successfully. As a future-qualifying midwife, you may find yourself applying to the private sector for a job, the days of automatically being employed by the NHS Trust where you have qualified are over.

In the NHS itself, resources are tight, and the quality of service provided has at times been affected, becoming visible in some newspaper stories about women treated very badly during their labour and birth. I would argue that no midwife wants a woman to feel she has been mistreated, but sometimes the pressure of work is enormous.

                     Image via Wikipedia

Despite all the uncertainty about the political landscape and the future of the NHS, there is still a huge amount of energy in the profession, and a strong commitment to provide the best possible care to the women we look after. I have been inspired so many times by my midwife mentors, and their consideration for the women they look after, their determination to do the best they can even in difficult circumstances. They give me the strength to continue even when I am exhausted and wondering how I can go on.

I can and do encourage women (and men!) to join the Midwifery profession, it is an honourable and ancient profession, it’s all about being together with women, supporting them, helping them through the most difficult and amazing day of their life.

What could possibly be better than that?


I know that like I was, you are probably incredibly keen to become a student midwife, it’s all you can think about, you are constantly reading about midwifery, and talking about it, the prospect of applying to University is keeping you awake at night, rehearsing your interview over and over. You have nightmares where you forget to paste your Personal Statement into your UCAS form. I get it. But before I go any further, and talk about the amazing privilege it is to work with women, I have to post a health warning.

Midwifery is a tough course, with a steep learning curve, and is a bit like doing a full-time job, with a full-time degree in the evenings on top of it. While you are on placement, you may find you are ‘working’ 30 hours a week, attending Uni for a study day for 7 hours a week, and producing around 4 major assignments a year in your spare time. On top of that, there is also ‘homework’ or directed study to do between study days. Every single Uni day and every single placement day is compulsory, so if you are sick, or miss a day, you have to catch it up in your own time before the end of the year. If you miss a study day, you have to produce a piece of written work which shows you have understood everything that was taught on that day.

If you have children, and/or a partner, your family time is going to be seriously affected by the course, and achieving a work/life balance that suits everyone can be damn hard work. The other mature students that I know have fantastic family support, grandparents helping out with the kids 2 or 3 days a week, partners taking career breaks to mind the kids, and this support is essential, as you will be working unsociable hours, maybe starting at 7am, and finishing at 7.30pm, with travel time on top, as well as quite a few nights, and (most) weekends.

All the students I know, even the more youthful ones, say that the course takes something from your personal life, it can’t all survive intact, something’s got to give. We’ve all experienced quite a bit of anxiety as a result of the course, and we all have our own ways of dealing with that.

I just want you to be as prepared as you can be, so that you don’t find you have to drop out because you didn’t realise the strain that the course would put on you. In upcoming blogs, I’m going to talk about ways of planning your life so that the course is more manageable, I’m not in the business of putting anybody off, we need all the passionate and committed midwives we can get!

Why did I become a student midwife?

So you’re thinking about studying midwifery – well, you’re not alone. The interest in midwifery as a career has grown enormously in the last few years, fuelled at least in part by ‘Call the Midwife’ and ‘One Born Every Minute’. Both these shows have given us an insight into the kind of work a midwife does. Call the Midwife because of the community-based midwifery it shows, and the lovely home births, and One Born Every Minute because of the way it shows real people reacting to emotional situations.

346 - Liam Kincheon Lander

346 - Liam Kincheon Lander (Photo credit: eyeliam)

I have seen a lot of my own experiences in One Born, and I especially enjoy seeing the midwives talking to the women, their partners and mums, having a joke together, getting everybody relaxed, and making the experience less scary. I’m a second year Midwifery student, and that’s my only qualification for writing this blog, I’ve been there. The desperate desire to make it onto the course, the incredibly long process of applying, and waiting to hear if you’ve got an interview, followed by the wait for the offer or the brush-off. The hours in between spent second-guessing your own personal statement, and sharing your fears and worries with other people in the same position on blogs and internet forums.

So why did I decide to abandon my fairly well-paid job in administration for the call of midwifery? I’d had enough of a job that was both high-stress and extremely boring, I wanted to make a difference. And now I do.

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